Bonding at bingo night leads to happily ever after in Jodie Slaughter's Bet on It, a small-town romance that blends the sultry and sweet. Black social media manager Aja Owens has moved to Greenbelt, S.C., for her mental health and is a regular at the local bingo hall, but she hasn't yet made the kind of close friends she'd hoped for. White journalist Walker Abbott has just arrived back in his hometown to help his grandmother, Aja's favorite bingo buddy, after an injury. Aja is in the middle of a panic attack in a grocery store when she first meets Walker, who is familiar with the symptoms from his own experience. He decides to sit and wait it out with her. When they next see each other at bingo, sparks fly.
As could be expected from a novel with a no-sex pact, Bet on It is steamy like a South Carolina evening, but Slaughter (White Whiskey Bargain) balances the heat with humor and compatibility and gives both characters arcs of their own. Aja decides to step out of her routine and makes some close friends. Reconciling with the grandmother who raised him, Walker faces his painful past and the townspeople who made him desperate to leave home. Mental health is an important part of each character's identity, and Slaughter doesn't pretend their struggles are cured by love. Instead, she shows two people supporting and loving the whole of each other. A fun romance with a big heart, Bet on It is a winner. --Suzanne Krohn, librarian and freelance reviewer